Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC-21) held its annual celebration on January 14-15, 2006, at St. Paul United Methodist Church in downtown Birmingham. 275 United Methodists participated in a day of workshops on Saturday customized to meet the needs of African-American churches, pastors, youth and young adults in the 21st Century.
After breakfast, the SBC-21 Choir and Spiritual Guide Rev. Jesse Bynum led everyone in Praise and Worship. Ms. Brendolyn High, Convenor for SBC-21, gave words of welcome and Mrs. Barbara Stewart, secretary for SBC-21, introduced the day's workshop facilitators.
The focal point of this year's events was Natural Church Development which was facilitated by Dr. Michael Reynolds, senior pastor of the New Life Celebration Church. Dr. Reynolds is also the director of the Master of Arts/Urban Ministry Program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and he is a member of the Church of God Chaplains Commission. Dr. Reynolds focused on 8 characteristics of the Natural Church Development Plan. These include Empowering leadership, Gift oriented ministry, Passionate spirituality, Functional structures, Inspiring worship, Holistic small groups, Need oriented evangelism, and Loving relationships.
Rev. Dale Cohen, Director of Connectional Ministries, gave information the local churches need in order to participate in Natural Church Development. Some important points he explained include
After a lunch prepared by Rev. Clarence Rice the group continued with the training event. Some attendees opted for a continuation of the workshop on Natural Church Development while others attended training sessions on other topics.
One of the other workshops was focused on the need for churches to have a functioning office led by Ms. Pamela Harris from the Office of Connectional Ministries, Rev. Lyle Holland of The Church at Cahaba Bend, and Rev. Sheryl Thornton. These leaders expressed the necessity for all offices to have a computer, fax, and internet service. The workshop called Getting It Together" dealt with technology and the church office working with the conference web site. SBC-21 is attempting to get computers for those churches at the workshop that signed up expressing a need of a computer with internet capability. Rev. Lyle Holland talked about creating a church office from scratch as a vital step in empowering ministry. Rev. Sheryl Thornton addressed our spiritual gifts and volunteers in the church.
Dr. Anthony Powell, Director of Fine Arts for SBC-21, along with Mr. Samuel A. South, Jr. led the Vibrant Worship workshop. Dr. Powell expressed that the purpose of this workshop is to allow all Black churches in the North Alabama Conference to come together to share strengths and weaknesses of the music department and church worship. Dr. Powell gave worksheets on how to improve, prepare, and develop various styles of worship.
Workshops for youth were coordinated by Mrs. Patricia Calhoun. These workshops included Acolyte Training led by Mrs. Cheryl Brown; Praise Dancers led by Mrs. Leatrice Ford; Steppers led by Ms. Titania Lanier; Arts and Crafts led by Mrs. Elwanda Williams; and Worship and Youth led by Mrs. Wilma Walker. During SBC-21's six year history the youth and young adult sessions have grown to the point that this year workshops for praise dancers and steppers were moved to sister church, St. John AME.
God is blessing our young people, writes Secretary of SBC-21 Barbara Stewart, which in turn will help to make the Black Church stronger. Our young people know that they are a part of a church on the move.
At the closing session of the day, Dr. Anthony Powell, planning and program chairman, presented a Certificate of Appreciation to convenor Ms. Brendolyn High and spiritual guide Rev. Jesse Bynum for their service. Certificates of appreciation were also presented to Rev. Clauzell Williams and Rev. Alfred Shackelford, pastor of St. Paul UMC - downtown, for their leadership as convenor and spiritual guide, respectively during the first three years of the SBC-21 ministry in North Alabama.
The event culminated on Sunday, January 15, with a dynamic worship service at St. Paul United Methodist Church with 375 participants including members of the North Alabama Conference Cabinet. The worship included inspiring music by the SBC-21 Choir, Steppers, Liturgical Dancers and a dynamic sermon by Rev. Kanunu E. Busambwa, pastor of Haven Memorial UMC in Alexander City, Alabama. The packed church worshiped and praised God as he led them in Holy Communion.
The planning and program committee is in the process of scheduling on-going training in each district for the North Alabama Conference.
We give God all the glory and praise for what He is doing for the continued life of the Black Church," writes Dr. Anthony Powell, SBC-21 Planning and Program Chair.